Eureka! Drug To Increase Women’s Sex Drive Wins FDA Approval

A woman’s libido or sex drive diminishes as we get older. It could be as a result of a health disorder, you’ve fallen out of love, your weight, many things an affect a man or woman’s sexual appetite.

For women with low sex drive, the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved a new EpiPen-like drug that promises to boost libido.

AMAG Pharmaceuticals says that the drug, Bremelanotide, helps women with hyposexual desire disorder, or HSDD.

The drug, according to FDA is somewhat similar to medications used to treat erectile dysfunction in men, in that they are meant to be used “on demand” — when a person wants to be sexually intimate. But that is where the similarity stops.

Erectile dysfunction drugs work by increasing blood flow to a man’s genitals. Bremelanotide, on the other hand, works by targeting a woman’s brain chemistry.

Simply put, experts say women with low sex drive tend to have higher levels of brain chemicals that increase sexual inhibition, and lower levels of chemicals that lead to sexual excitement. Bremelanotide is said to work to balance out those chemical levels.

According to Dr. Julie Krop, chief medical officer for AMAG Pharmaceuticals:

“It is about trying to restore this balance and tipping it in the direction of excitation when a woman wants it. Women are more complex than men sexually. It is hormonal, but it is not just hormonal.”

But some sexual health experts argue that a woman’s libido is much more than simple brain chemistry. Dr. Virginia Sadock, a clinical professor and director of human sexuality training in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone adds:

“Women are more complex than men sexually. It’s hormonal, but it’s not just hormonal.”

Still, Dr. Sadock is not ready to dismiss bremelanotide entirely. Sadock told NBC News:

“It is obviously something women are interested in, and it’s worth pursuing. But is it a miracle drug? Unlikely.”

READ ALSO: 5 Things That Can Increase A Woman’s Libido

Measuring benefit:

The drug, which will be marketed under the brand name Vyleesi, is an auto-injector, and is administered just like an EpiPen. The shot is self-administered to the abdomen or thigh at least 45 minutes before sexual activity.

In company-funded studies of more than 1,200 women identified as having HSDD, about 60 percent said they benefited from the drug, compared to about 35 percent who received a placebo. But measuring “benefit” can get murky. Dr. Krop added:

“When you’re looking at things like desire, there’s no blood test, no CT scan, no way to measure these things other than what’s called a patient-reported outcome.”

This means asking women how they’re thinking or feeling, similar to how doctors study drugs for depression or anxiety.

Doctors say it’s desirable for any drug meant to treat low sex drive to have modest benefits. Dr. Sheryl Kingsberg, chief of behavioral medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center says:

“The women who come into my office are in long-term relationships. They’re not looking to all of a sudden have tremendous sexual desire, and to have sex every day.”

Kingsberg was a primary investigator in the studies of bremelanotide, and is a paid consultant for the drug company.

“They want to restore what they had,” she added.

Side effects were minimal, according to AMAG. Some women reported that the injection made them feel nauseated. Eight percent of those study participants dropped out because of it.

The drug is only recommended for pre-menopausal women because it has not been studied in post-menopausal women.

What is HSDD?

AMAG says a woman would qualify for a diagnosis of HSDD if she were distressed by her persistent lack of desire for sexual activity. She, along with a physician, would have to rule out every other possible explanation for that low sex drive, such as relationship problems, stress, depression or fatigue. Kingsberg continues:

“For these women to have had good desire, and then to have lost it, for no situational reasons, it’s very distressing. And it has an impact on their lives well beyond the bedroom.”

AMAG estimates as many as one in 10 women has HSDD. However, those who treat women’s sexual health problems say the true numbers are much lower.

“Low libido is multifactorial,” said Dr. Lauren Streicher, medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause.

She goes into a “deep dive” of the personal and medical history all of the women who seek her help. Dr. Streicher, who wasn’t involved with work on the new drug, stated:

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“We have to address all of those other things that may be contributing. Maybe they have a history of trauma. Maybe they’re on an antidepressant that’s killed their sex drive. Quite frankly, it’s rarely just one thing.”

But Streicher also welcomed possible FDA approval of the drug, which she said looks like will help women who truly need it. Streicher added:

“It’s not that HSDD is not real. It’s real. It’s a question of what precipitated the HSDD and what are all of our options in terms of making it go away.”


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